According to a local legend, Sarasota was once named Zara Zota, which is believed to mean “the Sahara by the blue waters.” This moniker is an apt description of the expanse of white sandy beaches washed by the warm azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Comprised of 99 percent pure crystal quartz, these spellbinding beaches are among the whitest on the planet.
This idyllic emerald coast setting has attracted adventurers and romantics since the late 19th century, including John Ringling who selected the area as the winter quarters for his traveling circus in 1911. Sarasota's historic buildings and modern edifices, such as the Wilson Building, have influenced architects around the world. This seaside community also has an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and comfortable accommodations.
In keeping with its motto, Sarasota maintains a small-town atmosphere while providing a range of big city amenities.
Guests of Sarasota hotels can relax on the beach, experience a variety of exciting water sports, and watch colorful sunsets. Popular events like the annual Classic Sand Sculpting Competition attract visitors from around the globe. Head offshore on a deep-sea fishing or dolphin-watching cruise. Golfers can hone their skills on one of more than 60 courses. Sarasota also serves as a spring training center for Major League Baseball. The sports complex hosts a variety of events, such as car shows and concerts. Entertainment venues like the historic Asolo Theater and Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall feature a variety of musical and theatrical productions. Designed by an architect who collaborated with Frank Lloyd Wright, the Van Wezel includes a color scheme selected by Mr. Wright's widow.
Sarasota has some of the world's finest museum collections. The majestic estate constructed for circus owner John Ringling is now home to Cà d'Zan, his opulent Venetian Gothic 56-room mansion as well as the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, and the Circus Museum. The art museum's collection displays the works of American, Asian and European masters. The Circus Museum chronicles the rich heritage of this live performance show. The collection of artifacts and trails of the 30-acre Spanish Point historic site encompass over 5,000 years in the region. Jungle Gardens features more than 10 acres of lush exotic plants from around the globe, including many rare and endangered species. The tanks of the Mote Aquarium are home to amazing sea creatures that inhabit the nearby waters, such as sharks, sea turtles and dolphins, along with a variety of tropical fish.
The food, music, dancing, arts and crafts, and entertainment of the contemporary Ringling International Arts Festival signal the advent of the local festival season. The epicurean Forks and Corks Festival features a delightful range of tasting events. A frequent backdrop for movies and television shows, Sarasota is the host city for a regional film festival each spring. The early fall Sarasota Chalk Festival highlights the talents of artists using this colorful medium. There are numerous other cultural festivals and celebrations held throughout the year.
Sarasota has a humid subtropical climate with hot summers and mild winters. As a result, January through April is the peak season due to the area's most inviting weather. In addition to being the dry season, this period features temperatures in the mid-70s to low-80s. Evening lows average in the 50s. Late spring through summer is the off-season due to significant rainfall and high temperatures, which can reach the upper 90s. Summer afternoon storms are common. Temperatures and rainfall begin to moderate during the October to December “shoulder season.”
Guests of Sarasota hotels can reach this charming destination by air or car. Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) is located approximately five miles northwest of downtown, and is served by several major and commuter airlines. Visitors can easily reach Sarasota from Interstate 75, which is situated five miles to the east. The Tamiami Trail, or US 41, is a major north-to-south route through Sarasota, and provides easy access to all that “Paradise” has to offer.
Circus lovers, southern belles and beach lovers can all find enjoyment in this lovely city of the Sunshine State.